Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 38 books, mostly novels dealing with British history. The award-winning Glastonbury, an Arthurian grail search epic covering 15 centuries of English history, is her best-known work. Donna and her husband live in Boise, Idaho. They have 4 adult children and 11 grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic gardener.
Her newest release is A Darkly Hidden Truth, book 2 in her clerical mystery series The Monastery Murders. She also writes the Lord Danvers series of Victorian true-crime novels and the romantic suspense series The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries. To read more about these books and to see book videos for A Darkly Hidden Truth and for A Very Private Grave, Monastery Murders 1, as well as pictures from Donna’s garden and research trips go to: www.DonnaFletcherCrow.com.
Hi Donna and thank you for this interview! You are the author of 38 books. That is amazing. Are all your books mysteries?
Donna: Actually, I'm working on number 40 right now. I started out writing romance, then found I needed more plot to hold my interest. All of my books have some British history in them, however. Even when I'm writing a contemporary like my Monastery Murders series, or Idahohistory like my Daughters of Courage series, the British background works its way in.
What’s the average amount of time you invest in writing your books on a book by book basis?
Donna: Oh, there is no such thing as average. My epic GLASTONBURY, A Novel of the Holy Grail, is 820 pages long— that took three years to write. Sometimes I manage to do three books in a year. Whatever it is, though, the writing is full time and I'll confess to being compulsive.
Go back to that first book you ever published. Who published it and how hard was it for you to get the word out about it?
Donna: Ah, BRANDLEY'S SEARCH, which became book three in my Cambridge Chronicles and was later republished as WHERE LOVE BEGINS. First published by Victor Books in 1986— going back, indeed! Getting the word out was certainly harder in the days before the internet. Fortunately, I've always enjoyed public speaking and teaching. Writers' conferences were the best venue then.
Your recent release, A Darkly Hidden Truth, is classified as a clerical mystery. What exactly is a “clerical” mystery?
Donna: A good question, because we are a fairly small subgenre. Clerical mysteries take place in or around a church, synagogue or monastery and most often have a priest, monk, nun or rabbi as sleuth. Some of the best-known practitioners are Andrew Greeley, Kate Charles and Julia Spencer-Fleming. Brother Cadfael and Father Brown are two of the most beloved sleuths.
Where did you get the idea to write this particular book?
Donna: The idea for the series developed when my daughter studied classics at Oxford, found she disliked teaching in Londonand took herself off to a monastery in Yorkshireto study theology. That made a perfect background for my heroine Felicity. As to this book I had long wanted to tell the stories of the women medieval writers Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe. Visiting the soggy Norfolk Broads near where they lived gave me the setting for the major plot points. I find I often "find" my plots in my settings.
Can you tell us more about Felicity? Her strengths? Her weaknesses?
Donna: I mentioned that I used my daughter's experiences for Felicity's background. The trouble came when I gave Felicity Elizabeth's personality— a perfect daughter can make a boring heroine. When Felicity became her own rash, headstrong person the book came alive. As my editor commented, "That girl does get into more trouble," and she drives poor Antonyto distraction. But in her defense let me also point out that she is brilliant, energetic and loyal and is willing to learn from her mistakes. The thing is, though, she keeps making new mistakes to learn from. I do see much of the fun of this series will be growing Felicity up.
Felicity seems like a take charge kind of woman. Did you model her after anyone in real life?
Donna: Even though I started with my daughter's story, the more I work with Felicity the more I'm finding she's really her own woman. She has her own experiences and challenges and asks her own questions— even when Antonywishes she wouldn't. Antonyshares my love for history and Felicity, who in the first book went cross-eyed at his accounts, is developing an appreciation for learning from the past.
Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
Donna: I don't think in terms of message, but I think an underlying theme is an appreciation for history and tradition. I believe those who have gone before us have fought great battles to pass such a rich heritage on to us and I feel passionately that their stories shouldn't be lost.
Can you name one interesting or unusual thing about A Darkly Hidden Truth?
Donna: I mentioned earlier that I often get the bones of my plot (sometimes literally) from my settings. One of my goals as a writer is to give my readers a "you are there" experience. I try never to write about a place I haven't visited and I try to take my reader with me on the journey. In A Darkly Hidden Truth the atmosphere of the Norfolk Broads, so marshy they defeated Cromwell's destructors and almost defeated Felicity and Antony, provided the perfect settings for discovering bodies and for chase scenes.
Lastly, is there anything about your book that you’d like to tell my readers and where can they pick up a copy?
Donna: Readers often ask me, "How much of this is true?" Everything is absolutely as true as I can make it: the contemporary scenes are just as I observed them (minus the dead bodies, you understand), and the history is as accurate as my research revealed— but where research ends the novelists' imagination takes over.
I would love to have you visit my website: www.DonnaFletcherCrow.com, you can see the book trailers for both of my Monastery Murders, order books, see albums from my research trips, and visit my rose garden.
Also, any fine bookstore should carry A Darkly Hidden Truth, or you can order it from Amazon http://ning.it/HsnHda